In response to a series of complaints against the CBC's Kids News program, the CBC Ombudsman has released a statement acknowledging that the Corporation had “got things wrong” in light of the “controversial statements” on gender identity made by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
The complaints were lodged against the Kids News program Recap, which was broadcast both on CBC Television and uploaded online on June 12, 2020.
As part of the investigation by ombudsman Jack Nagler, CBC senior producer Lisa Fender acknowledged that the segment in question “did not show a range of perspective”.
The ombudsman provided the following transcript taken from the Recap episode at the centre of the complaints:
Presenter 1: “It’s 2020. Releasing these kinds of statements online is not a good look. And hasn’t she been accused of transphobic stuff in the past?”
Presenter 2: “Ummm, yeah. Last year she was criticized for supporting a woman who was fired after saying that trans women weren’t real women.”
Presenter 3: “Sis, read the room. There are so many conversations right now about equality, justice and racism. Is it any surprise that this story’s blowing up right now?”
A follow-up episode of Recap addressed the controversy. You can read a longer transcript of that episode, but here's a bit of it:
...conversations about gender can be confusing and layered…and they deserve time. There are so many points of view when it comes to … well, anything. And we should have done a better job at finding balance and giving a voice to other perspectives.
We understand there are a lot of people that stand with J.K. Rowling and her views on being female. And since taping our conversation she released an essay on her position.
Ombudsman Nagler observes the following, and describes how CBC Kids has implemented changes behind the scenes:
So the heart of the problem in this program was not the series of viewpoints that were heard, it was the viewpoints that were NOT heard. The segment was not balanced, and it contributed to an impression among complainants that CBC was promoting a particular point of view. This was a violation of policy, and I am glad to see that Ms. Fender acknowledged this.
...Behind the scenes, there have also been some changes. In the immediate aftermath there were discussions held with the team to remind everyone on the team about the potential impact of what they say, and the imperative to avoid being cavalier about the opinions they express.
The team has also committed to implementing a more formal process for any one joining the Kids News team, including on-air presenters.
The ombudsman concludes:
The real test will of course be what happens next at CBC Kids News, as intentions can only take you so far. The responsibility to get it right belongs to the (adult) producers, whose job it is to ensure that this particular lesson won’t need to be repeated. The guidelines set out by the JSP are important in every aspect of CBC journalism. They are all the more important for information aimed at children, tweens and teens.
Last week, we released an exclusive report showing that CBC's Strategic Plan called on the Corporation to form an “emotional bond” with young Canadians.
In June, True North's Andrew Lawton joined Ezra Levant to discuss CBC Kids coverage of Rowling's alleged transphobia. Watch it here:
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